The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Writing Exercise- The first place you lived September 21, 2009

Filed under: Life in General,Writing — ashleybarrett @ 10:06 am
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Writing exercises put a positive spin on the word exercise. They are fun and best of all, get me writing. I love the shove into the rabbit hole of my imagination and memory.

So, here’s a writing exercise for you and the first part of my answer.

This exercise is from page 37 of What If?, one of the few textbooks I kept.

“Buy a notebook for just this one exercise [note: Or if you’re like me, use one of the many you already have]. Then, on a regular basis perhaps at the beginning of your writing time or before you go to bed, write for ten to twenty minutes addressing each of the following subjects: [another note: there are many subjects but I am only listing one]

List in detail all the places you have lived–one place per page. (This is a good way to begin because it gives the entire notebook a grounding in time and place.) You might want to get very specific, say, by recounting all the kitchens or bedrooms.”

I’ll share mine about the first house I lived in:

This one doesn’t get it’s own page because I only lived there for the first months of my life. The house sat across  from a root-beer stand called Dog n’ Mug. An eight-foot picture of a frosty mug of root-beer holding a leashed hot-dog, complete with toppings, spanned the front wall. My Dad used to sneak over there at 10:30 in the morning and eat mushroom-smothered hot-dogs for breakfast (according to my Great-Grandma Hayes). The only reason I have a picture of it in my mind is because my parents pointed the house out to me on one of the many visits to the root-beer stand after we moved. I mentioned the drab grey-green color of the house and  the six-foot privacy fence painted to match. They said it had been tan when they lived there.

I know I spent more time  on the root-beer stand than the house but hey, to me, that’s the most vivid part of the house.

Your turn! Tell me about the first place you lived and since the point of this exercise is to write, I would encourage you to make up the details you can’t remember. But just in case you’re wondering the giant picture of the mug walking a  hot-dog does exist.


The Realization of an Inexorable Choice August 4, 2009

Filed under: Life in General,Writing — michellehuegel @ 4:07 pm
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in⋅ex⋅o⋅ra⋅ble /ɪnˈɛksərəbəl/
1. unyielding; unalterable: inexorable truth; inexorable justice.
2. not to be persuaded, moved, or affected by prayers or entreaties: an inexorable creditor.

In my somewhat-extensive reading experience, I’ve noticed that writers like the word inexorable. It is frequently used to add dramatic flair when writing about the passage of time, which could be a boring subject to read about.

Until recently the word slipped past my eyes and didn’t really register. Now I understand. Inexorable time means that my baby is learning new skills every minute. Each hour he’s on the floor he moves faster, farther. Every day he gets less and less easily pacified with a playpen or bouncy seat, preferring – needing – face-to-face interaction and new stimuli. A couple more months and he’ll be walking. (!)

But there’s a dark edge to the word inexorable. As exciting as all these changes are, they’re still changes (a word that deserves its own blog post!). We’re balanced precariously right now – I take Cai to work with me, and he naps in the playpen, plays on the floor or in his pen or bouncy chair, and sometimes in my lap. Every day I watch this balance tip inexorably toward the impossible.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately – not the distant, where-do-i-want-to-be-in-10-years future, but the immediate, what-am-i-going-to-do-in-3-months future. I feel the pressure of my English degree weighing on me, pulling me seductively to open Word or grab a smooth pen and fresh paper and just write. Every month when I pay my student loan bill I feel guilty that I’m not using my degree. But right now, paying bills and spending those rare moments of free time with my son and husband win out over writing.

Back to thinking about the future – because nothing stays the same forever. Sooner than I want to imagine, the day will come when I can’t bring Cai to the office with me anymore. Is that the time to finally take the leap of faith that being a freelance writer/editor requires, and risk my family’s financial security? What other choice do I have? Do you ever feel like life is conspiring to narrow your choices? Dare I even mention the word destiny? I refuse to put my son in daycare (not that we could afford it anyway), and that greatly limits my choices. I wanted to be an editor so I could work from home.

So why is that inexorable choice so utterly terrifying?


For Pete’s Sake June 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — michellehuegel @ 12:22 pm
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Imagine the year, oh, 500 A.D. You’re a laborer hard at work building some glorious cathedral for the glory of God. Suddenly, because you’re thinking of meeting some buddies after work for a bottle of mead instead of focusing on what you’re doing, you slam a hammer into your thumb. “Oh for Chr-” you start to yell, cursing your stupidity, then notice the supervising priest staring suspiciously in your direction, and change mid-curse to “Oh, for Saint Peter’s sake!” said in an appropriately worshipful tone. The priest nods sagely and continues on his supervisory way.

Fast-forward a thousand years or so. The laborer’s great-great-great-ad infinitum grandson hits his thumb with his hammer and wonders why he takes 35 seconds yelling “Oh for Saint Peter’s sake” and shortens it to “Oh for Pete’s sake!” because there’s no priest watching.

Fast-forward to modern times. We have now labeled this phenomenon, because we must label everything so it can be analyzed to death. “For Pete’s sake” is a “minced oath,” a substitution of a less offensive word in a phrase. Which probably explains why few people say it anymore, because few people actually care about the offensiveness of their language today. And we have no priests supervising us who would string us up by our toenails and force us to recite the rosary 100 times upside down for taking the Lord’s name in vain.

And that’s where the phrase “For Pete’s sake” came from. Don’t you feel smarter now?